Fishing in Clearwater: The Complete Guide

Studying Time: 9 minutes

Clearwater, FL is a major instance of what makes Florida’s west coast nice: white sandy seashores, heat seas, and an infinite mixture of productive fisheries. Whereas fishing in Clearwater, you’ll be able to discover shallow bayous or go to distant reefs. Select between the Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay. Wherever you go, you’ll discover loads of fish ready to take your bait.

This text breaks down the numerous methods to fish round Clearwater so you’ll be able to decide the one for you. We’ll cowl the highest species, spots, and kinds of fishing, in addition to tournaments, rules, and extra. By the point you’re executed, you’ll know what to focus on and the way and the place to take action – with out breaking any guidelines.

Clearwater’s Prime Fish Species

You possibly can catch dozens of various fish out of Clearwater. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of anglers go after only a handful of them. Right here’s a fast introduction to one of the best of one of the best, and what makes them particular.


Snook are Central Florida’s signature sport fish. Aggressive, robust, and unpredictable. They’re a prized catch for each Clearwater fly fishing fanatic and could be simply as enjoyable on spinning gear. The most effective time to focus on Snook is the center of summer season. They normally hand around in bayous and mangroves however might also hunt alongside beachfronts or round shallow pilings.

Sadly, Florida’s Snook have had a tricky few years. Extreme chilly snaps and main crimson tides wreaked havoc on the Gulf’s inshore fisheries. Fish numbers are nonetheless recovering, so Snook fishing in Clearwater is presently catch-and-release solely. Don’t fear, it’s nonetheless an superior place to focus on them.


If any inshore fish can outdo Snook for drama, it’s Tarpon. These shiny giants are the undisputed kings of the shallows – therefore their title, “The Silver King.” Hooking one is hard. Reeling it in is a complete new degree. They’re recognized for his or her aerial acrobatics and crazed head shakes. Even skilled anglers will battle to get one to the boat.

The most effective time to focus on Tarpon in Clearwater is summer season. That is when massive fish fill the bays and passes. The simplest technique to hook them is with stay baits (crab and shrimp are standard choices). Nevertheless, the final word objective for many individuals is to land a Tarpon on the fly. Anglers go to Clearwater for this precise cause annually.

Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper are one of many largest fish within the Gulf. They develop to 800 kilos and over 8 toes lengthy. Even “small” catches could be within the triple digits. That isn’t simply massive, it’s laughably outsized. Why? As a result of these grumpy giants have a tendency to hang around inshore – you’ll be able to even catch them from piers, though we wouldn’t suggest it. 

Hooking a Goliath Grouper is extra a matter of luck than ability. They take just about any pure bait and don’t actually thoughts the way you current it. Your greatest guess is to drop stay baits that match the native forage. Carry the heaviest rod and the thickest line you’ll find and prepare for a tricky combat. Use circle hooks for a simple launch, as Goliaths are strictly protected.

Purple Snapper

Lastly, a fish you’ll be able to eat! For many individuals, Purple Snapper is the tastiest meal within the sea. It produces giant fillets of flaky chicken which might be scrumptious any method you prepare dinner them. Unsurprisingly, lots of people need to catch these guys. Due to this, Purple Snapper season may be very quick – only some weeks in June and July.

If that’s if you’re on the town, fortunate you! It takes some time to get to them (20 miles or extra) however it’s value it for a slice of this premium desk fare. Snapper aren’t simply good for consuming, thoughts you. These are giant predators that know how you can throw their weight round. They’re additionally good at breaking your line on the rocky reefs they name dwelling.

King Mackerel

There’s loads to like about Florida’s “Kingfish.” They develop massive, combat onerous, and look cool. What’s extra, they arrive moderately near shore. King Mackerel are the right catch in order for you a style of deep sea fishing with out the lengthy journey instances. This additionally makes them a well-liked goal in Clearwater’s tournaments – however extra on that later.

King Mackerel migrate up and down the Gulf Coast annually, passing Clearwater within the spring and fall. The easiest way to fish for them is by trolling. A typical tactic is to troll again from the reef when you’ve caught your fill of backside fish. Mackerel have an oily meat that may be tasty barbecued or smoked. That is how they received their nickname, “Smoker Kings.”


The Gulf of Mexico is dwelling to an enormous mixture of Sharks. From kid-friendly species like Bonnetheads to heavy sort out monsters like Hammerheads, you’ve received a Shark for each sort of angler in these heat waters. The most effective time for Shark fishing round Clearwater is summer season. The way you catch them relies on the species.

Should you’re going after small Sharks, you may get nice outcomes fishing from jetties. A variety of constitution captains additionally run specialist Shark journeys which might be an enormous hit with youngsters. After one thing larger? Surf fishing for Bull Sharks is a problem for any angler. It’s much more thrilling at night time, when the fish are most lively.

Kinds of Fishing in Clearwater

Your fundamental alternative isn’t what to catch whilst you’re in Clearwater, it’s how you can attain it. Generally, the three fundamental methods of wetting a line listed below are on a constitution boat, on a kayak, or from shore. Right here’s a quick rationalization of what to anticipate from every choice.

Constitution Fishing

Charters are the one technique to attain offshore species like Kingfish, Purple Snapper, or Tuna. They’re additionally nice for concentrating on inshore sport like Tarpon and Snook. You possibly can fish extra distant areas and keep on prime of your goal as soon as you discover it. And that’s simply the boat itself. Charters additionally include high quality sort out, to not point out a neighborhood information who is aware of all one of the best spots.

There are two fundamental sorts of charters: shared and personal. On non-public charters, the captain adapts to your targets and is available that can assist you in the course of the journey. Shared “occasion boats” are extra fundamental: You get a rod, bait, and a spot on the boat, however a lot much less assist. They’re an affordable method for solo anglers to get onto the water however don’t examine to the VIP expertise of a non-public constitution.

Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing is fairly standard round Clearwater, and it’s simple to see why. You possibly can escape the crowds and discover the shallows at your personal tempo. Even if you happen to’re an entire newbie, leaping in a kayak will get you to some nice fishing spots. You’re extra restricted in what you’ll be able to catch, although. The primary targets are Trout, Snook, Redfish, and different inshore species.

Clearwater kayak fishing could be as simple as renting a ‘yak and a rod from a beachside sales space. For the complete expertise, you possibly can additionally think about fishing with a information. These guys normally present correct pedal-drive fishing kayaks with rod holders and catch nets, in addition to all the required gear. In addition they provide you with recommendations on preventing fish from a kayak, which takes a bit getting used to.

Shore Fishing

After all, you don’t want to depart dry land in any respect. Yow will discover loads of motion from shore. Clearwater is surrounded by seashores, parks, and piers the place you’ll be able to moist a line and catch some fish. Some seashores shall be too crowded for fishing, however so long as you keep away from the principle vacationer sizzling spots you must discover house.

The explanation folks love fishing from shore is that you just’re utterly by yourself schedule. Fish all night time or simply for an hour – it’s solely as much as you. This additionally helps you to be versatile if you happen to’re the one angler in your group. The primary draw back to shore fishing is that it’s worthwhile to convey your personal gear. You possibly can hire rods domestically, however they’re usually in fairly dangerous form.

Fishing Spots in Clearwater

By now, you must have an honest deal with on what you’ll be able to catch and the way. Now it’s worthwhile to know the place to do it. The most effective honey holes are all the time a closely-guarded secret, and we respect that. Nevertheless, there are many well-known and well-loved locations to fish round Clearwater. Listed here are a few productive spots for every model of fishing.

  • Sand Key Park. A reasonably park with lots to maintain the entire household completely satisfied. Most significantly, the park has nice surf fishing, in addition to rocks and small wood jetties dealing with Clearwater Go. Anticipate a mixture of inshore species like Ladyfish, Drum, Sheepshead, and Jacks.
  • Pier 60. A licensed fishing pier stretching 1,000 toes into the Gulf. It prices $8 to fish right here all day, or $20 with rods and bait. Relying on the season, you’ll be able to catch Snook, Sheepshead, Spanish Mackerel, Trout, Redfish, and extra. The pier will get fairly busy in summer season.
  • Philippe Park. A gorgeous park with a small pier and seashore to fish from. You can too launch a kayak into Security Harbor. Don’t anticipate to catch a monster (primarily medium-size Redfish and Trout) however this stress-free slice of outdated Florida is a welcome break from the Gulf Coast crowds.
  • Hurricane Go. An space of deep water between Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands. The realm is understood for its monster Snook, however you’ll be able to catch something from Redfish and Flounder to Cobia and Kingfish right here. You want a powerful pair of arms to succeed in the go on a kayak.
  • Rube Allyn Reef. A big synthetic reef 11 miles offshore from Clearwater. The reef is legendary for its massive Smoker King chunk each spring and fall. You can too catch Barracuda, Grunt, and Snapper, in addition to Goliath Grouper and even the occasional Amberjack.
  • Center Grounds. That is the spot for a once-in-a-lifetime fishing journey. The Center Grounds are virtually 100 miles offshore and maintain among the greatest fish within the Gulf: Amberjack, Gag and Scamp Grouper, Purple and Vermilion Snapper – even Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna stay right here.

Clearwater Fishing Tournaments

For most individuals, preventing massive fish is sufficient of a problem. If you would like much more pleasure, a number of fishing tournaments are held round Clearwater annually. Most are organized by The Outdated Salt Fishing Basis, which has been going for nearly 50 years and now runs competitions all through the Clearwater-St. Petersburg space.

Outdated Salt’s most prestigious occasion is the Loop Billfish Event, held every August. This can be a catch-and-release, winner-takes-all occasion with a assured minimal purse of $50,000. Nearer to shore however no much less aggressive are the King of the Seaside Kingfish Tournaments. There’s a spring and fall version, every with $225,000 in payouts. 

Choose to fish from shore? You get not two, however three possibilities to participate within the Seawall Event. There’s additionally a youngsters’ match in Might, a women’ match in June, and an inshore problem in January. Everytime you go to, chances are high there’s a contest happening someplace.

Fishing Licenses and Native Legal guidelines

You don’t want a allow to fish aboard a constitution or licensed fishing pier, reminiscent of Pier 60. Should you’re fishing from shore, on a kayak, or on a non-public boat, you want a Florida fishing license for anybody aged 16 or over. There are just a few exceptions to this, which we’ve devoted a whole article to already.

Speaking of licenses, there’s one factor you have to be conscious of if you happen to’re happening a constitution. Captains within the Gulf of Mexico want a particular federal allow to fish greater than 9 miles offshore. These are onerous to come back by, so not all people has them. If you wish to catch massive Purple Snapper or different offshore species, be sure your constitution is federally licensed.

Lastly, there are just a few closed seasons you must take into accout. As we talked about above, particular rules are in place to assist inshore fisheries recuperate. Snook are release-only till September 1, 2020, whereas Redfish and Seatrout are protected till June 1. These closed seasons could also be prolonged, so verify with the FWC if you happen to’re not sure.

Clear Water, Huge Fish, and A great deal of Enjoyable

Fishing in Clearwater can imply one thing completely different to a dozen anglers. To many, it’s about exploring shallow seagrasses and distant bayous. For others, it’s reeling in large, tasty reef fish. Some even journey to the guts of the Gulf in quest of massive sport monsters. No matter you’re after, you’ll discover it right here in spades, with some beautiful views to make issues much more particular.

Have you ever ever been fishing in Clearwater? How did you do it, and what did you catch? Inform us your tales or drop us a query within the feedback under. We’re all the time completely satisfied to speak fish!

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